Custody battles can be challenging and highly emotionally charged. Over the years, courts have tried to establish policies that make custody arrangements as fair as possible to both parents, but there are many, many factors a judge will consider when determining physical and legal custody of children.

In some cases, equitable custody is just not an option. One parent may not be a safe option for custody of a child. In that event, the court may order supervised visitation with that parent so that another trusted adult can ensure the child’s safety while the child maintains a relationship with that parent.

But, what exactly is supervised visitation and how do you go about asking for a parent to be supervised?

What Is Supervised Visitation?

Supervised visitation is a court-ordered visitation when the non-custodial parent may only see their child when another designated adult is present as well (generally called “line of sight”) supervision. In some cases, the person designated is a social worker. In other circumstances, the adult could be a mutually agreed upon friend or relative.

Supervised visitations generally occur at a set time and place, and in some situations are held in a public place such as a park or a restaurant or another community gathering area. Under some circumstances, a judge can restrict activities even with a supervising adult present. In most cases, courts can set an amount of time for the supervised visitation order to be in place or make the order indefinite.

How Do I Go About Getting Supervised Visitation?

Generally speaking, states have different laws surrounding child custody and visitation. As a result, the process for getting a supervised visitation order may vary from state to state. However, supervised visitation orders are usually set in two ways.

First, the parents may mutually agree on supervised visitation. In some instances, both parents can negotiate custody outside the court, including negotiate for supervised visitation. After an agreement is reached, it is sent to the court for a judge’s approval and becomes legally binding.

If the parties try to negotiate, but they are unable to come to an agreement, then the party seeking supervised visitation may have to petition the court for supervised visitation instead.

Second, supervised visitation may be established through a court order. This happens when one parent petitions or motions for a supervised visitation order from the court. It is also possible for an existing child custody order to be modified. To modify an existing order, a party would follow a similar process of petitioning or motioning for a modification through the court.

Once a petition or motion is submitted to the court, a hearing is then typically planned. The hearing involves the parties going before a judge to hear arguments regarding whether the visitation should be supervised or not.

What Factors Help Determine If Supervised Visitation Is Needed?

There are several factors courts may consider when determining supervised visitation. These factors may include:

  • If one parent has been absent from the child’s life, but wants visitation
  • History of neglect by parent
  • Mental health/illness history of parent that may put child’s safety at risk
  • Any history of substance abuse by the parent
  • Any sexual, physical or emotional abuse by parent on the child
  • Any sexual, physical or emotional abuse by parent on the other parent
  • The potential for abduction or kidnapping

How Can Supervised Visitation Orders Get Changed?

As mentioned, existing visitation orders may be modified. Modification may be requested by a parent seeking to change unsupervised visitation to supervised. Or, modification may be requested by a parent who is already subjected to supervised visitation but wishes to have unsupervised visitation.

To modify an existing order, a court will generally hold a hearing before a judge. The judge will examine several factors for modifying the order. These factors may include whether the parent subjected to supervised visitation has demonstrated property rehabilitation or change in behavior that resulted in court-ordered supervised visitation in the first place.

Second, a judge may look to whether a parent has moved out of state.

And, third, a judge may weigh whether a parent has failed to abide by a current supervised visitation order. Not following a supervised visitation order may result in losing visitation altogether. A judge may also find a non-abiding parent in contempt of court and order that parent to pay fines. Or, depending upon the behavior of the non-abiding parent, a judge may issue a protective order barring the parent from communicating with the child.

All of these factors can have a significant impact on whether a judge orders supervised visitation or not.

Should I Consult With an Attorney for Visitation?

Historically, child visitation guidelines are used to facilitate an increase in the child-parent relationship while keeping the child’s best interests (typically safety) at heart. If you find that you need assistance with your child visitation situation, reach out to an experienced child visitation lawyer. An attorney can inform you of your rights and can guide you through legal proceedings.